I'm in No Mood for LoveBy: Rachel Gibson
T he first time Clare Wingate found herself in a strange bed, she’d been twenty-one, the victim of a bad breakup and too many Jell-O shooters. The love of her life had dumped her for a blond art student with an impressive rack, and Clare had spent the night at Humpin’ Hannah’s, holding down the bar and nursing her broken heart.
The next morning she woke in a bed smelling of patchouli oil and staring up at a poster of Bob Marley, the guy snoring beside her drowning out the pounding in her head. She hadn’t known either where she was or the snoring guy’s name. She hadn’t stuck around long enough to ask.
Instead, she’d grabbed her clothes and bolted. As she’d driven home in the cruel light of morning, she told herself there were worse things in life than random sexual encounters. Bad things like flunking out of college or getting caught in a burning building. Yeah, those were bad. Still, a one-night stand wasn’t for her. It had left her feeling disgusted and disturbed. But by the time she reached her apartment, she’d chalked the whole thing up to a learning experience. Something a lot of young women did. Something to learn from, and something that was good to know for the future. Something she vowed would never happen again.
Clare had not been raised to reach for a shot glass and a warm body to make herself feel better. No, she’d been raised to curb her impulses and contain her feelings behind a perfect facade of warm smiles, kind words, and impeccable manners. Wingates did not drink too much, talk too loud, or wear white shoes before Memorial Day. Ever. They did not wear their hearts on the sleeves of their cashmere sweater sets, and they most certainly did not jump into bed with strangers.
Clare may have been raised on restraint, but she’d been born a romantic. In the pit of her soul she believed in love at first sight and instant attraction, and had a bad habit of leaping into relationships before she looked. She seemed destined to suffer repeated heartache, painful breakups, and the occasional drunken one nighter.
Fortunately, by her late twenties she’d learned to put into practice the restraint she’d been taught. For her reward, at the age of thirty-one, destiny blessed her and she met Lonny. The love of her life. The man she’d met at a Degas exhibit, and who swept her off her feet. He was beautiful and romantic and not in the least like the heartbreakers she’d dated in the past. He remembered birthdays and special occasions, and was brilliant when it came to floral arrangements. Clare’s mother loved him because he knew how to use a tomato server. Clare loved him because he understood about her work and left her alone when she was under a deadline.
After a year of dating, Lonny moved into Clare’s home, and they spent the next year in total sync. He loved her antique furniture, and they both loved pastels and had a passion for texture. They never fought or even argued. There was no emotional drama with Lonny, and when he asked her to marry him, she’d said yes.
Lonny really was the perfect man. Well…except for his low sex drive. Sometimes he didn’t want sex for months at a time, but really, she told herself, not all men were horn dogs.
Or so she believed, right up to the moment she’d rushed home unexpectedly the day of her friend Lucy’s wedding and found him in flagrante delicto with the Sears service technician. It had taken her several stunned moments to process what was happening on the floor of her walk-in closet. She’d stood there with her great-grandmother’s pearls in hand, too shocked to move, while the man who’d fixed her Maytag the day before rode her fiancé like a cowboy. And none of it seemed quite real until Lonny glanced up and his shocked brown gaze met hers.
“I thought you were sick,” she’d said stupidly, and then, without another word, gathered up the hem of her silk and tulle bridesmaid’s dress and ran from the house. The drive to the church was a blur, and she’d been forced to spend the rest of the day in a pink puff of a dress, smiling like her life hadn’t jumped the rails and sailed off a cliff.
While Lucy read her vows, Clare felt her heart break piece by piece. She’d stood at the front of the church, smiling as she fell apart inside until she was hollow and empty, except for the pain squeezing her chest. At the wedding reception, she pushed the corners of her mouth up and raised a glass to her friend’s happiness. She felt it was her duty to make a suitable toast, and she did. She would rather have died than ruin Lucy’s day with her own problems. She just had to remember not to get toasted. She told herself that one small glass of champagne wouldn’t hurt. It wasn’t like knocking back straight shots of whiskey, after all.